When we are impressed by a photo

I frequent a number of Facebook groups with the common purpose to display photographs and discuss these. I have observed the line of questions that people ask when they are thrilled about a photo. The intention of this post is not something high-flown bombastic artistic. But to make you think of the lines of question we ask each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that asking questions is great source of learning. When looking at photographs from others, it is only natural to be thinking I want to shoot something similar. So we ask questions like which camera did he, what lens, which ND filter and what settings. These are total valid questions, we all asked them, but they hold one common inadequateness perspective; they take base in the idea that a photo is accomplished through technical means.

The problem with such technical orientated questions is that they will not bring your forward as a photographer. They will not allow you to reproduce the photograph. They will not allow you to identify potential in similar scenes. A technical answer is not a generic solution to every scene, but to a particular scene. Asking better questions is essential to evolve as a photographer. Asking the right question will allow you generically approach scenes of a certain types, with intent and an aspiration to convey deliberate expression.

With better questions I mean questions like…

  • What was your thought process behind the photo?
  • What urged you to take the photo?
  • Why did you take the perspective that you did?
  • What role does the color play in your photo?
  • Which feelings did you want to convey with the photo.
  • The effect of the lens, how would a wider or tighter lens have changed the scene
  • Which items is in the frame, what role do they play, do they need to be there
  • How is the composition of the photo, which lines draws the eye
  • Depth of field, Focus, where is it and why, which parts is blurry and why. Is there depth in the photo? Could there be more? Would it benefit from less?
  • What are the relationships between the elements in the frame, how would you make the relationship stronger, and would you.
  • What is the light doing? Light contributes to composition, creating shadows, depth
  • Texture, what it is bringing to the photo, like light can it have importance on the mood.

Next time you look at an image; ask yourself, am I really seeking the right answers. Surely the list above is not an exhausting list that covers all questions to be asked. There is several answers to these questions, and often no right and wrong. Much depends on the photographer and he expression he seeks, but remember the spectator also have a right to his own interpretations.


5 thoughts on “When we are impressed by a photo

  1. Great article old man 🙂 I find myself thinking more along these points as I progress and focus (so to speak) less on my gear.

  2. henrikbruuncom 02/04/2016 — 06:00

    maybe the most important blog ever, and thats exactly what we all do…. a step up to become a smarter photog is to understand why you are overwhelmed by a photo.. yes, the gear is interesting. but how was it setup. time of day, what kind of light source and angles. – my mayor stone on the road right now is to make the model in a portrait relax and be natural,,,,its way harder than get the gear ready and settings righ…keep them coming Jürgen.

  3. Also the value of going to art museums and actually “reverse engineering” images to see why they work.
    The painting medium has a pretty good head start of many decades and the technology behind why it “works” isn’t a big distraction to the goal.

    Great painters nail the basics then expand from there. An accomplished tech guy goes beyond his early Zone System work with: Perception and Imaging: Photography–A Way of Seeing – Richard Zakia


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